Our Secret KGB Lust

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/03/the_day_i_left_my_son_in_the_car/

In the above article a woman gets in trouble with the police when she leaves her son in the car for five minutes on a cool day to go into the store.  The police only know about this because someone with a camera phone, who clearly wishes they were in the KGB, informed them.  The best part of the article is when another mother talks about the odds of a child being harmed left in the car for five minutes vs. driving to the store.  People’s threat factors are way off these days.  Also, just watch Mad Men to get an idea how our parents grew up.  As Terry Gilliam says, “kids bounce.”

How many times has some virulent anti-gay figure turned out to be gay?  Is the reason that we claimed to hate totalitarian Communism all those years, and I am referring to the Soviet kind for the moment, because we secretly loved it?  Why do we need a secret police when citizens feel that it is their duty to inform on other citizens for things other than serious crimes?

One of the things that I find most disturbing about modern social interaction is how nothing is private anymore.  It is one thing if someone wants to disclose their own information online, but we now no longer give people the choice most of the time.  From the disgusting world of TMZ to friends checking you into places on facebook without them asking, it is just getting ridiculous.  Are we Big Brother?

If there is a flip side positive to any of this it is when people use their electronic devices to speak truth to power and protect their fellow citizens.  I am thinking especially of when people take videos of police abuse.  If only more people would realize that we’re all in this thing together.

The Road to Socialism

The word socialism doesn’t really mean anything anymore.  It’s kind of like the term rock n roll.  It’s been used by so many people in so many different ways that it could and does mean a whole host of things.  Because of this it lacks any specific meaning.  Most of the time socialism in this country is used by the right wing to conjure up images of the boogey man.  The number one definition in Webster’s Dictionary about socialism is: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.  This doesn’t help us very much I’m afraid.   It only touches upon the many ways in which socialism has been used throughout the years.

If you want to know where I stand, I am a fan of the kind of democratic socialism that they have in many European countries.  I think the free market is the best and most dynamic creator of wealth and innovation.  However, I think the free market is not good at tackling certain things like health care, the environment, and the common good when it comes to things like infrastructure and public spaces.  We already do have sort of a hybrid system in this country.  Things like Social Security and Medicaid are socialist programs, but I think that we need to go further to the left, while still leaving room for the free market to play a large part.

One of the best arguments for socialism, and critiques of those who don’t understand how to sell it to people, is the second half of George Orwell’s book The Road to Wigan Pier.  Although Orwell has been claimed by many on the right wing because of his warnings of Big Brother, Orwell actually argued for socialism.  However he was highly critical of the left, not because he disagreed with what they were trying to achieve, but the way in which they were trying to achieve it.

I find one of his arguments particularly interesting.  He claims that many of the left do themselves no favors in attacking people’s tribal and religious affiliations.  He claims that when people are poor and down and out they cling to these things that create their identity, because it’s all that they have.  If you want to move the white blue collar worker, who in this country often votes Republican, towards a fairer more socialist form of government, you should not make attacks of their culture part of your argument.  I’m not claiming that he is right, though I do see some validity to his argument.  I just think it is an interesting place to start a debate.

The first half of Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier deals with the plight of the working poor in England.  He is mostly dealing with the miners, but he does touch upon others as well.  If you are interested in social justice, moving towards a fairer economic system, and the history of workers and politics in general, I highly recommend this book.

I don’t think that through my writing here that I have defined socialism in any definitive terms.  At this point it’s a word that has been dragged through the mud and has evaporated into the ether.  But I do believe in economic social justice.  We need to take care of the less fortunate in our society and give them a place at the table.  I’ll get behind any term that accomplishes that.